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3 Tips to Help Cope with Decision Fatigue from Covid-19

Do I send my kids to school this Fall? We’re out of eggs, should I take a trip to the store just to get one thing? Which store will be emptier? Do we go to my sister’s 40th birthday party?

The questions roll on and on. Some are small, some are big, but one thing’s for sure, they’re coming at us faster than ever and we’re exhausted. We’re suffering from decision fatigue.

This decision fatigue is leading to high levels of anxiety worldwide. According to a Pew Research Center report, one-third of Americans experienced high levels of psychological distress during the COVID-19 outbreak. Each decision feels weighted. Even the smallest decisions take up a lot of mental space now and in the end, no choice seems quite right. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has even created a decision-making tool to help parents and guardians weigh the risks and benefits of sending their kids back to school.

Here are some tips to help reduce decision fatigue.

1. Practice Constraint

It’s time to minimize feelings of overwhelm. To do that we need to limit the number of decisions we make each day. This may take a little time on the front end, but when you create a schedule and make a plan for the week, you reduce the amount of time and stress spent on day to day decisions.

  • Plan your menu and get your groceries for the week. Whether you’re an excellent cook or someone who celebrates making scrambled eggs (I’m pointing at myself), make yourself sit down, write out the menu and then get the groceries for the whole week so you have the ingredients waiting for you.
  • Plan your outfit the day before. (I work from home, so which sweatpants to wear doesn’t take up too much time) Take a tip from Steve Jobs and choose just a couple outfits you wear for work, so you don’t need to spend time thinking about what to wear. It doesn’t have to be a black turtleneck and blue jeans but narrow your choices down and stick with it.
  • Anything that you do daily/weekly, get that planned ahead so it’s one less thing on your plate.

2. Time Block

There’s a lot of different ways to set up a schedule. It doesn’t matter how you do it, just do yourself a favor and make one. Sit down at the end of the week or before the next week starts and plan your week.

I like to plan my next week on Friday. I’ll write down a list of everything I need to accomplish. I keep a master list on Evernote (they have a free version). Then I take out my notebook (because I’m a sucker for pen, paper, and crossing things off – it feels so good), and I break my list out through the week.

My favorite kind of scheduling is called Time Blocking. Depending on what’s on the list I block my workday into 30-minute and 1-hour time blocks to get things done. This blog post took up a couple one-hour time blocks. One in the morning and another in the afternoon. There’ll be one more 30-minute time block to go over it one more time before I hit post. If you want more in-depth information about time blocking, I recommend checking out these blog posts on the nitty-gritty of time blocking.

Most people recommend doing the hard stuff on your list first when mental energy is at its peak. We’re all different. You know what works best for you. I have to wait for my daughter to go down for her nap before I can really get focused on the hard stuff, so for me, I work on the hard stuff from 1:30 – 3:30 in the afternoon.

3. Take a walk

When overwhelm sets in, get outside. Take a walk or find a quiet place to sit and take some deep breaths. Give yourself breaks throughout the day. Your body needs it and so does your mind.

What tips do you have to help with decision fatigue? Share them in the comments.

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